Physiotherapists (NOC 3142)

High demand occupation

About this job

People in this occupation:

  • plan and implement individual treatment programs to maintain, improve or restore physical functioning, alleviate pain and prevent physical dysfunction in patients
  • work for hospitals, clinics, industry, sports organizations, rehabilitation centres and extended care facilities
  • may work in private practice
  • need a thorough understanding of anatomy and pathology
  • must be highly observant and skilled in critical thinking in order to make safe and effective clinical decisions
  • need leadership and teamwork skills to coordinate with other health professionals

See what a day in the life of this job is like—watch WorkBC’s Career Trek video about this occupation.

Source: WorkBC’s Career Trek

Common job titles
  • co-ordinator, clinical physiotherapy
  • physiotherapist
  • physiotherapist, clinical
  • physiotherapist, registered
  • therapist, physical - clinical, consultant
  • co-ordinator, clinical physiotherapy
  • physiotherapist
  • physiotherapist, clinical
  • physiotherapist, registered
  • therapist, physical - clinical, consultant

Duties

Physiotherapists:

  • assess patients' physical abilities through detailed history analysis and evaluative outcome measurements and hands-on tests
  • develop treatment goals based on diagnosis with the patient or the patient's family
  • set up physiotherapy programs (.e.g., exercise, electrotherapy, education, etc.) based on individual needs and abilities
  • evaluate results to track patient improvement or to modify treatment
  • communicate with health-care professionals and team members about patient needs
  • maintain detailed records of patient's treatment and progress
  • do research in physiotherapy and related fields
  • develop physical health promotion programs and screening tools
  • provide education and consulting services to the public and other health-care professionals

Special duties

In some public practices (e.g., acute care) there is an increased trend toward discharge planning due to increased caseload, increase in patient acuity, a reduction in outpatient services and earlier discharges from hospitals

The trend of early discharge impacts private practice physiotherapy since clinics are providing sub-acute care for post-surgical joint replacements and neurological conditions previously provided through inpatient or outpatient services.

Work environment

Physiotherapists practice in a range of public and private settings, including hospitals, private clinics, home care, child-development centres, extended-care facilities, in academics and administration, and health-planning agencies. They often work as part of a health-care team, but perform many independent duties as well. Of these work avenues, a large number of physiotherapists in Canada practice in their own private clinics and also provide home care.

Full-time professionals in the public setting generally work a 36-hour week. Evening and weekend work may be required. Those in private practice generally work 36–50 hours per week. Some jobs, especially in rural regions and in home care, may require physiotherapists to travel.

Recently, there have been large increases in home care, both publicly and privately funded, due to the early discharge of acute patients from hospitals. There has also been an increase in private practice over the past 10 years.

Physiotherapy interventions may include the use of electrophysical agents such as ultrasound, laser and electrical stimulation devices. Possible health risks associated with the use of these devices (for both patient and operator) can be well managed by following proper procedures.

In most work settings, a physiotherapist will lift, bend and walk frequently throughout the day. They also depend on their hands and upper body for hands-on treatment. Risk of musculoskeletal injury associated with these tasks may be managed by appropriate body mechanics and using specialized devices that help with moving patients.

Job satisfaction among physiotherapists is high. There are many opportunities to travel and work abroad, and to work in a variety of settings with flexible schedules.

Insights from industry

A growing and aging population will require more health services, which will result in an increased demand for physiotherapists. Demand will increase due to greater health awareness and interest in preventative measures among British Columbians. Job openings will also arise from the need to replace retiring workers. Further, as this occupation is generally dominated by women, there is a large percentage of physiotherapists taking maternity leave each year.

Industry sources report that the current supply of new graduates is insufficient to fill the current and emerging vacancies as physiotherapists retire. British Columbia relies on graduates from other provinces and countries to meet the need.

While there are shortages throughout the province, vacancies in the northern regions, on the mainland and some areas on Vancouver Island are generally more difficult to fill. As employers in under-served regions tend to experience difficulties in hiring these professionals when vacancies occur, the B.C. provincial government has offered loan forgiveness to physiotherapist graduates who commit to work in these regions.

For more details on the loan-forgiveness program, please view the StudentAid BC website at https://studentaidbc.ca/repay/repayment-help/bc-loan-forgiveness-program.

The range of techniques and services provided by physiotherapists is constantly changing due to new information, technology, service demands and settings. New technology and information may result in workers taking on more specialized roles. This will also have an effect on educational requirements, as increased training will be necessary.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Physiotherapists tend to work/travel in their early career, or work with travelling sports teams. New graduates tend to work in a variety of settings in order to determine their area of special interest prior to committing to a full-time position.

By continuing professional development, physical therapists can move into specialized areas that target specific populations or dysfunctions. Geriatrics, orthopedics, burns, pediatrics and neurology are some examples of these specific fields of practice.

Physiotherapists are noted for their continual learning through professional development courses. With more than 30 areas of specialization, there are many avenues of post-secondary education to gain expertise in. Most private practice physiotherapists begin by working in clinics as associates, and may become owners of clinics later in their careers as they develop clinical and business expertise.

Additional resources